As I write, we still don’t know how many people were killed in the California wildfires, though more than a thousand are unaccounted for. Nor are the Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire yet fully contained. Environmental devastation on this scale is hard to imagine, much less comprehend.
At the same time, on the other coast, wintry weather is bearing down early, leaving a chain of power outages and traffic accidents.
By the time you read this, we may well be on to other disasters, deaths, and plain inconveniences.
We live in a world where the natural disasters and regular old weather have grown in strength, frequency, and devastating effects. We know that climate change has multiplied the effects we feel, yet we are doing little to address the change.
This isn’t really new, though. People have always been slow to react to large shifts. We get used to how things have been and think–for whatever misguided reason!–that those circumstances and conditions will continue indefinitely. First, we deny the changes. Then, we explain them away, as minor blips. By the time we grudgingly accept their reality, a full new normal has set in and we are scurrying to keep up.
In ancient times, the Hebrew prophets woke people up with their proclamations about change and doom. Early Christians recast these proclamations to relate to the birth, life, and death of a man named Jesus. The prophets, though, had the ability to see what others couldn’t because they took a long view–a God’s-eye view, if you will–and refused to accept what everyone else saw as given.
This time of the year, as we face the December holiday rush, may be a good time to consider a longer view, to nurture our prophetic selves. We might take time to find inspiration in darkness and even gloom. We might set aside the question, “What do the kids want for Christmas?” to ponder, “What do the kids need to prepare them to live a good life in uncertain times?” We might ask what really matters to us this season, what really matters to us in life, and what is better to let go of.
We can’t all be prophets. We can’t guess what might come. We can’t account for all the forces that affect us. We can do what we can do, and strive to be a little more grounded as we face the forces. If we take the time for some reflection and contemplation, we can have a little more perspective and a little better decision-making.
Whatever we can do, we ought to do.